December 30, 2010 11.44 am This story is over 159 months old

Lincoln is hotspot for church lead thieves

Lead thefts: Figures show that Lincoln is a hotspot for lead thefts from church roofs, only outclassed by Manchester.

Lincoln is among the top areas in the country affected by metal thefts from churches, particularly lead, an insurer revealed on Thursday.

Church insurer Ecclesiastical said the Lincoln diocese made more than 70 claims after criminals stripped churches of lead, which is in high demand across the world.

In the top spot was Manchester, with over 90 claims, closely followed by Chelmsford and Southwark, with more than 70 claims from each, and Lichfield diocese with more than 60 claims up to the end of November.

Thefts from the five dioceses amount to more than a quarter of all metal theft incidents in the country.

After it is stolen, the lead is passed on illegally to underground scrap dealers, who sell it on. Eventually, it makes its way on to the construction marketplace.

This year is set to be the third worst on record for theft of metal from churches, with a running total of 1,484 claims received by Ecclesiastical from UK churches alone, and a total cost to the insurer exceeding £3 million.

2007 and 2008 were the worst years on record for metal theft, with the number of claims exceeding 4,600 and costing more than £16million for the two years.

John Coates, Ecclesiastical’s direct insurance services director, said: “It’s been a pretty dire year for lead theft, with Manchester and these four other dioceses bearing the brunt of the problem.

“With lead and other valuable metals fetching high prices on world markets, it’s not surprising that criminals have been hard at work stripping churches and exposing them to the elements.

“After the slight reprieve of 2009, when we saw a slight decrease in the number of theft of metal claims, this year has once again proved that the issue isn’t going to go away without a more focused effort on a national level to stamp out this crime.

“The key message we have tried and will continue to try to get across is that theft of metal isn’t a crime that simply affects the church buildings. It is a crime that has a devastating impact on the people and communities that support our churches and depend on them in their everyday lives.”

The insurer promotes use of the forensic liquid SmartWater to its customers, and it has recently successfully trialled and piloted the use of roof alarms in churches that have been repeatedly targeted by metal thieves.

Source: Press Association | Photo: Adrian Newton | Related Report: BBC Manchester